RKK Engineering returned to the Charlottesville today to

survey drivers making use of the Downtown Mall’s two vehicular crossings

.  One of the surveyors who works from RKK’s Richmond office, Brian Revels, indicated this would be the last of four survey days as the firm collects data for their consulting report assessing the use of the 2nd Street West and 4th Street East crossings.  Previous surveys were conducted in

August 2006

, December 2006, and March 2007.

The image below shows the survey being administered by RKK.

Charlottesville City Council approved the 4th Street East crossing on a trial basis in April 2006

. The data collected by RKK will be reviewed by City staff, the Planning
Commission and City Council this Summer to determine if the trial crossing should remain and what


improvements might be made for drivers seeking parking.  Interestingly, according to Wikipedia, the term “wayfinding” was coined by a

Kevin Lynch

but not the Kevin Lynch who currently sits on Charlottesville City
Council and was the lone vote against the second trial crossing.

I spoke to


Kevin Lynch

today about the Mall crossing. He said, “I am skeptical of the report saying anything useful.  I think it is very difficult to make any objective measure of how it is working.”  Lynch prefers other steps to make the Downtown Mall more visible to visitors, specifically improvements on the side streets with amenities like street lamps and banners.  There has been a recent proposal under review by the City to improve signage around the Mall and parking garages, but Lynch says he is opposed to what he has seen so far on the project and thinks the money can be better spent.

While he thinks the Mall crossing is a solution in search of a quantifiable problem, Kevin Lynch says, “if we are going to keep the crossing, it should be moved to Fifth Street and the direction of the 2nd Street crossing should be reversed.”  Jim Tolbert, the head of City’s Neighborhood Development Services, says 5th Street East would be the home of the permanent second crossing.  Lynch points out that reversing the crossings will get traffic moving with the natural flow of the neighboring streets, improve circulation around the Mall, and put the crossings in a location that will not lead to the creation of a “cross-town thoroughfare.”

During their campaigns


Councilor Dave Norris

indicated he would have voted against the new crossing and

Councilor Julian Taliaferro

indicated he would have supported the trial.  When the matter returns to City Council for the first time since their election, they will both get the opportunity to vote on whether the crossing should be made permanent.

According to Downtown Mall business leader

Mary Loose DeViney

, of Tuel Jewelers and current Chairman of the Chamber of Commerce Board, the business community has been very supportive of having two vehicular crossings.  “I am not hearing anyone opposed to this.  Our customers have said this is really nice.” DeViney’s store has been on Main Street since 1945.


Chamber of Commerce

has argued that the second crossing is needed to replace the one that previously existed at the current location of the First Amendment Monument, before the pedestrian Mall was extended from 6th Street to the Pavilion.  In a May 24, 2005 letter to City Council, the Chamber leadership wrote, “Our Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce supports the efforts of the Downtown Business Association and others for the City to expeditiously replace lost east end vehicular crossings of Main Street with a safe, accessible vehicular crossing in the east end of the Downtown Main Street Mall.”  In 2007, the Downtown Business Association is conducting its own survey about the impact of the Mall crossing on area businesses.

In January 2006, the

City Planning Commission voted 5-2 against a second vehicular crossing

.  In February 2006, at the City Council public hearing, City Manager Gary O’Connell recommended against consideration of a new crossing until after the construction was completed on the Transit Center.  During public comment, speakers were divided on the issue with twelve indicating they favored the crossing and nine speaking against.  Those opposed to the crossing suggested a decision should be made only after construction on the east end of the Mall was completed and after improved parking signage was installed.  Other expressed concerns about safety of pedestrians on the Mall.  City Council approved a one-year trial and plans to revisit the decision this Summer.

Brian Wheeler


Interested in what we're working on next? Sign up for our weekly newsletter and never miss a story.